California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that sought to ban driverless trucks in the state. The bill, known as Assembly Bill 316, was sponsored by the Teamsters union and received overwhelming support from both legislative chambers. However, Governor Newsom declared the bill unnecessary because existing laws provide sufficient authority to regulate and oversee autonomous vehicle technology in California.
Currently, autonomous trucks weighing more than 10,001 pounds are required to have human safety drivers. If the bill had come into force, security monitors would have become a permanent requirement. However, Newsom’s veto means the status quo remains and autonomous trucks will still require human drivers.
In his veto letter, Newsom emphasized that the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) already has the authority to oversee and regulate the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles on California roads. He also mentioned that the DMV can suspend or revoke permits if necessary to ensure public safety.
The Teamsters union, which had pressured Newsom to sign the bill, said it was disappointed by the veto. They argued the ban was necessary to protect freight jobs and ensure public safety. They highlighted survey data showing that a majority of California residents support a ban on self-driving trucks.
However, Governor Newsom expressed his willingness to work with stakeholders to develop regulations that ensure the safe testing and deployment of autonomous heavy-duty vehicles. He directed the state Labor and Workforce Development Agency to lead a stakeholder process in 2024 to address potential employment impacts.
The Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association (AVIA), which opposed the bill, welcomed the veto. They noted that the veto allows California safety experts to further evaluate autonomous vehicle technology and consider appropriate regulatory action. Autonomous truck developers such as Mountain View-based Kodiak Robotics also expressed gratitude for Newsom’s decision because it allows safety experts to regulate the industry.